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White House to Ease Restrictions on Travelers to US in November

September 20, 2021 by Dan McCue
Terminal C at Reagan National Airport. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Monday that it will ease restrictions on international travelers coming to the U.S. starting in early November, requiring them to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S. bound plane.

The new policy also includes a requirement that they have a negative test for the coronavirus within three days before coming to the United States.

But for fully vaccinated international travelers, the current 14-day quarantine period will be set aside. The new policy is seen, among other things, as a way to end the separation of families, some of whom haven’t seen loved ones since March 2020.

The specific vaccines that qualify a traveler as “fully vaccinated” will be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

“This new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID from passengers flying internationally into the United States or requiring adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated. It’s based on public health. It requires fully vaccinated individuals. And so this is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so is a strong system,” Zients said.

The announcement came as President Joe Biden prepared to head to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday and a day before he was to meet with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House.

The Trump administration began implementing the travel bans against foreign travelers from a group of European countries, Iran and China  in January 2020 in the hopes of preventing the spread of disease. 

The Biden administration kept the restrictions in place, maintaining the restrictions were necessary, particularly after the spread of the contagious delta variant this summer fueled a rise of cases.

Unvaccinated Americans overseas aiming to travel home will have to clear stricter testing requirements. 

They will need to test negative for the coronavirus one day before traveling to the United States and show proof that they have bought a test to take after arriving in the United States

“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange of ideas and culture,” Zients said. 

“That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel,” he added.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement that his organization, a nonprofit advocate for the travel industry, was gratified by the announcement, which he said “will help revive the American economy and protect public health.”

“This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” Dow said.

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